Machu Picchu, Peru.

Peru and COVID-19: Quick Response Hampered by Structural Failures

By Eduardo Dargent and Camila Gianella

Peru was among the first Latin American countries to implement legal measures that restrict civil rights in order to stem the spread of COVID-19.

On March 15, with 28 confirmed cases and no deaths, the government issued the Supreme Decree N° 044-2020-PCM declaring a state of emergency for 15 days. Measures in the decree included closing the borders, ordering a general lockdown, forbidding domestic travel, and closing schools, universities, churches, and all non-essential businesses, among others.

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Cape Town, South Africa.

Human Rights, the Rule of Law, and COVID-19 in South Africa

By Mark Heywood

South Africa’s first case of COVID-19 was confirmed on March 5th, 2020. Ten days later, on March 15th, 2020, the government utilized the Disaster Management Act (2002) to declare a State of National Disaster. Under this Act, the government set up a National Command Council (NCC) made up of Cabinet Ministers and restricted certain rights necessary to prevent SARS-Cov-2 transmission and “flatten the curve.”

A national lockdown started on March 27th. It was relaxed slightly (to level 4) on May 1st, and was further relaxed (to level 3) on June 1st. The lockdown severely restricted freedom of movement, closed all but essential companies and schools, banned the sale of alcohol and tobacco, and introduced a night-time curfew between 8pm and 5am. By May 22nd, the Minister of Police reported that 230,000 people had been arrested for violating lock-down regulations.

The most affected constitutionally recognized rights are freedom of movement, assembly, and trade. However, on paper at least, care has been taken to ensure that political rights and rights to freedom of expression and association are not limited, and the President has couched the country’s response in terms of the Constitution, particularly the rights to life, dignity and access to health care services. He has also frequently referred to the right to equality and promised that in the post COVID-19 period South Africa will do much more to tackle the inequalities that have been exposed by the coronavirus.

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international connections concept art.

Key Themes in “Global Responses to COVID-19” Symposium: Privacy and Health Rights

By Alicia Ely Yamin

This post is the second analysis of key themes that have emerged from the digital symposium “Global Responses to COVID-19: Rights, Democracy, and the Law.”

1. The crisis exposes dramatically different impacts on the distinct interests protected as “privacy” rights.

Life in democratic societies is enhanced when the law protects what information and aspects of intimate personal life an individual shares with others.

But the pandemic has accelerated the use of a variety of surveillance technologies, which are now being introduced and/or rapidly expanded to trace the virus, and in turn individuals’ movements and lives. One South Korean legal expert interviewed for this symposium put it bluntly: “It looks like we’re living at the end of privacy.”

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Madison, Wisconsin / USA - April 24, 2020: Demonstrators hold flags and signs at an anti lockdown rally on the steps of the Wisconsin State capitol. State Street is in the background.

Rights, Democracy, and the Law in the United States During COVID-19

Our latest digital symposium, Global Responses to COVID-19: Rights, Democracy, and the Law, presents a snapshot of the spectrum of rights-related measures adopted in response to the pandemic in dozens of countries to date.

Given the international focus of the symposium, we opted not to solicit a submission representing the situation in the United States. However, the Bill of Health blog has published numerous relevant posts on different dimensions of legal and policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

The selections below, which we will continually update, offer an array of perspectives on how the U.S. response to the pandemic has affected rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

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Mexico City, Mexico.

Human Rights at Risk During the Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Mexico

By Sofía Charvel

Mexico is a country of contrasts; both in the richness of our culture as in the advances and shortcomings that have arisen in our path towards the effective protection of human rights. In the face of the health crisis due to COVID-19, violations to rights and liberties are a latent risk.

The Mexican Health System is too fragile to face COVID-19 due to the corruption and lack of investment of former administrations, and due to poorly-implemented reforms made by the current administration. Read More

Oslo, Norway.

Norway and the COVID-19 Lockdown

By Malcolm Langford and Kristin Bergtora Sandvik

On its face, Norway is a COVID-19 success story.

Facing rapidly increasing infection, the government introduced on March 12th, 2020 a wide-ranging lockdown. The sovereign wealth fund was tapped to bolster public spending and ensure that welfare for most citizens remain relatively unchanged. By April, the outbreak was brought under control; and, as of May 7th, domestic lockdown restrictions were partially eased.

This success is partly due to widespread trust in government and national public health authorities, and the mobilization of the deeply ingrained cultural concept of “dugnad,” voluntary and collective work. However, the government’s interventionist response raises many questions with respect to the rule of law and human rights, which we explore in this blog.

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Masked statue of Meir Dizengoff, the first Mayor of Tel Aviv. Photo courtesy of Aeyal Gross.

Rights Restrictions and Securitization of Health in Israel During COVID-19

By Aeyal Gross

Facing the novel Coronavirus, Israel adopted a series of legal measures that have restricted various human rights both directly and indirectly.

The earliest restrictions — requirements established in February for people returning from abroad to isolate — were, in March, gradually broadened to restrict freedom of movement within Israel, ranging from a general lockdown, which at its peak restricted any outing to walking or exercising only within 100 meters of one’s home, except for specific purposes, to cordon sanitaire for areas with bigger outbreaks, which prohibited movement into and out of those regions.

The various restrictions created severe limitations not only on the right to freedom of movement itself, but also on family life, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion.

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Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada.

The Canadian Response to COVID-19

By Vanessa Gruben

Like many other countries, different levels of government in Canada have adopted a wide range of measures in response to COVID-19. Many of the measures vary from province to province and municipality to municipality.

Canada is a federation composed of a federal government, three territorial governments (which operate with delegated federal authority), ten provincial governments, and thousands of municipal governments (which exercise powers delegated by the provinces).

Each level of government has distinct responsibilities under the Constitution Act, and each has used a variety of legal instruments including laws, regulations, executive orders, directives and by-laws, during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect public health. This brief overview offers a few examples of the legal instruments that have impacted individual civil liberties.

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Paris, France.

COVID-19 in France: Health as a Constitutional Value and Limitations on Civil Liberties

By Stéphanie Dagron

This piece was written on May 13, 2020 amid a rapidly evolving situation. The post reflects the state of knowledge at the time of writing.

In France, a state of sanitary emergency was declared for a period of two months starting on March 23rd, 2020 in order to allow the authorities “to deal with the major health threat” created by SARS-Cov-2.

In many ways, this regime resembles the State of Emergency regime which currently exists in French law (Emergency Powers Law of April 3rd, 1955).  However, it seems the public authorities wished to instate, at least symbolically, a different regime from the ones imposed in times of terrorism or armed conflict.

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Copenhagen, Denmark.

How Denmark’s Epidemic Act Was Amended to Respond to COVID-19

By Janne Rothmar Herrmann

On March 12, 2020 the Danish Prime Minister informed the nation in a televised statement that she was effectively shutting down the country in response to COVID-19. She urged parents to keep their children home the next day, but gave schools, daycare centers, kindergartens, and all public employees two working days to shut down.

That same day Parliament passed an Act that made major changes in the Epidemic Act, which Denmark has had in force since 1915. The current Epidemic Act dates from 1979 and has been amended with minor revisions several times since then.

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